Madagascar’s a natural paradise. Ninety percent of all its animals and some 80 percent of all its plants are unique to this, Africa's largest island country. The rainforest in the fourth largest island in the world is also impressive. But it’s under threat.
The living conditions of the resident population are anything but ideal. According to UNICEF, 81 percent of the 30 million inhabitants live in extreme poverty, with more than 40 percent unable to provide themselves with enough food. Almost one in two children under five is chronically malnourished. Nearly half the population has no access to clean drinking water. Cooking is usually done over an open fire, with the wood needed fetched from the nearest forest. Deforestation, a result of slash-and-burn agriculture and livestock farming or predatory logging, has led to the disappearance of 90 percent of Madagascar’s tree cover.
The Association pour le Développement de l’Energie Solaire Suisse (ADES) is working to counteract this development. An NGO, ADES has been working to preserve Madagascar’s forests and livelihoods for over 20 years. The aid organisation’s focus is on energy-efficient cooking: cooking over an open fire consumes four to six tonnes of wood per year in a Malagasy household. In a bid to stop this waste, ADES produces and sells solar and energy-saving cookers. "Energy-saving cookers cut the use of coal by 50 percent, or 70 percent if wood is being burnt,” says André Grossen, ADES’ head of communications.
An energy-saving cooker costs the local population about CHF 4.50 – a fraction of what it costs to make. Here in Switzerland, that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a big investment for many local families. “We don’t give the cookers away for free. We don't want to come across as patronising, but at the same time we want to make sure that the cooker is valued,” says Grossen.
To date, the organisation has produced 500,000 cookers and created 250 jobs. Last year alone, it sold 85,000 of the devices. “We’ve been experiencing strong growth. But this needs to be sustainable,” says Grossen. ADES has established its own production and distribution infrastructure, which can now reach almost the entire island.
The cookers are financed, among others, by myclimate’s “Cause We Care” fund, to which Mobility contributes.
The ADES energy-saving and solar cookers are a long-standing pilot project of myclimate. “What makes ADES a showcase initiative is its holistic approach,” says myclimate’s Cornelia Rutishauser. “It works on many levels: it offers a clean and efficient cooking solution, knowledge transfer, sustainability and reforestation, and it supports the local economy. Each element of the project has been added successively,” says Rutishauser. The project is reducing deforestation significantly, plus it’s improving the lives of local people.
ADES’ 22-year history has seen it invest 30 million Swiss francs in Madagascar. Half of this has been financed through donations and funding rounds. The other half comes from the sale of CO₂ offsetting certificates via the myclimate foundation. As a participant in myclimate’s “Cause We Care” programme, Mobility purchases CO₂ certificates to support climate protection measures such as those in Madagascar.
As in Madagascar, climate-optimised and sustainable forest management is the focus of the second project to receive Mobility’s support via the “Cause We Care” fund. Twelve forest-owning public authorities in the Prättigau region of Canton Graubünden have developed a climate protection project involving 13,000 hectares of woodland: the carbon store in the forest is maintained at a defined level.
In return, the owners commit to leaving a certain number of the trees standing that would otherwise be felled and used for commercial purposes as part of standard sustainable woodland management practices. Doing so increases the overall carbon store of the forest. The owners are compensated financially through emission reduction certificates, with the revenues, in turn, invested in the forest.
"Forests play a key role in mitigating the climate crisis,” says Pascal Walther, project manager of nature-based solutions at myclimate. Their entire biomass – which includes the soil – stores CO₂. Moreover, the wood from the trees (including the long-term CO₂ they contain ) can be used to build houses, which saves concrete, the production of which is extremely CO₂-intensive. “The forest provides many more benefits than just for the climate,” says Walther. It’s an important ecosystem that contributes to biodiversity and influences the microclimate and the weather.
The “Cause We Care” programme was launched in 2017 to advocate for climate protection and sustainability in tourism. Alongside the operational measures that Mobility implements in the cause of sustainability, the projects in Madagascar and Graubünden exemplify what “Cause We Care” is all about: climate protection at a local and a global scale. Member companies such as Mobility can choose whether to offer their customers the option of making a voluntary climate protection contribution when booking. By doing so, customers assume responsibility for the CO₂ they generate by supporting a climate protection project. Mobility has been a preferred partner of myclimate from the very beginning. “Mobility customers have a sustainable attitude that not everyone needs to own a car,” notes myclimate’s Cornelia Rutishauser.
One thing that marks out Mobility’s involvement in “Cause We Care” is that the company doubles the amount it receives, paying its contribution into a dedicated fund. This fund is used for climate protection and sustainability activities within or outside the company. This has enabled Mobility to implement numerous measures, such as pushing on with its electrification of the fleet with the aim to be fully electric by 2030.
Photos copyright: myclimate
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